Following the launch of Aqualisa Smart Quartz Collection of showers, Hotel Designs catches up with Ian Gell, the brand’s head of new product design…
The recent launch of the new Aqualisa Smart Quartz Collection of showers shows that the shower brand is firmly in the driving seat for innovative shower technology in the UK. In order to understand the technology behind the new products – as well as some of the major challenges that come with driving innovation in the bathroom – we spoke to Ian Gell, Aqualisa’s head of new product design.
Hotel Designs: As Head of New Product Design at Aqualisa, what was the initial brief when creating the latest Smart Quartz Collection of showers?
Ian Gell: We wanted to create a first truly Smart shower that would improve the showering experience even further and offer connectivity across our Quartz Digital collection in an ever-growing IOT market. We also wanted to develop a feature rich product at an entry level price. Aqualisa are known for designing world class showers and we wanted to go that one step further making our showers that little bit more special.
“From a concept perspective, having a shower that can be operated via an app or having voice control abilities seems quite straight forward however, the truth is, it was extremely challenging.” – Ian Gell, head of new product design, Aqualisa.
HD: Can you explain some of the main challenges you faced when designing these products, and the solutions you came up with to rectify these?
IG: The development of the app was the biggest challenge for us. From a concept perspective, having a shower that can be operated via an app or having voice control abilities seems quite straight forward however, the truth is, it was extremely challenging. There is no ‘off the shelf’ solution that you can incorporate and use so we had to develop something from the ground up that could communicate with all our products. As well as developing the app, we had to develop the software and hardware in our valves and controllers. Allowing all new controllers and valves to communicate with each other was key.
HD: What makes this collection truly unique from anything else on the market?
IG: Aqualisa invented the digital shower back in 2001 and we have been market leaders in this area since. Having a truly connected shower to offer is the icing on the cake for our well-loved brand as it enables so many exciting and innovative opportunities to become possible.
HD: From concept to launch, how long did this collection take to design/create?
IG: At the back end of November 2018, the designers picked up their pens for the first time and started creating some concept sketches and schemes however, the project really didn’t pick up traction until February 2019 and was launched in March 2020 so it took roughly a year. Most of the work has been developing a connected solution with some purpose. This resulted in the app being created and the hardware and software requiring a major overhaul to allow our product to become connected which took most of the time.
HD: Technology in hotel bathrooms has traditionally divided consumer opinions? How user-friendly is the design of the Smart Quartz Collection of showers?
IG: A smart shower provides a personalised experience with safe and precise water control. Our smart and digital showers are in fact easier to use than most traditional showers. We have all used showers in the past where you need to stop and analyze the controls and work out what lever turns it on and what lever controls the temperature. Sometimes it’s the same lever and takes a bit of experimenting! In most instances, the user normally gets a cold wet arm whilst trying to get the water to the correct temperature for their liking. This is not the case with our product.
Our product is activated by a simple on/off button so there is no confusion. Furthermore, our showers can be activated remotely by remote control, through an app also by voice command (if you a have an Alexa or Google home device), so users can turn the shower on from outside the shower. All our showers will indicate when the desired temperature has been reached giving the user confidence the shower will be at the perfect temperature before entry.
As well as having user benefits, our smart showers are quick and simple to install. As the hot and cold water is mixed away from the showering area, there are no bulky valves to fit into the wall. Our valves can be fitted out of site in a convenient location i.e. in a cupboard, in the loft space or under the bath resulting in easy access if needed.
“Quartz Touch also allows users to store their preferred showering profile that can be active through the controller or via the app.” – Ian Gell, head of new product design, Aqualisa.
HD: How does the range of products enhance the bathroom experience?
IG: Smart showers are sleek and modern devices and will compliment any bathroom interior from the more classic approach to the most contemporary design. Quartz Touch is great for tech enthusiasts out there as an LCD display is present showing the user the exact temperature. The user can also access different menus allowing full control for flow. Quartz Touch also allows users to store their preferred showering profile that can be active through the controller or via the app. You can set your preferred flow, preferred outlet and temperature with a simple touch of a button.
Our showers are also compatible with Alexa and Google so once the Aqualisa skill has been downloaded, Aqualisa showers can be added to people’s smart routines. For example, “hey google, start my relaxing bath routine” could turn up the thermostat, dim the lights and start filling the bath from your Aqualisa controller, all via that one command. With the smart technology out there, the options are limitless.
HD: How have you designed these products so that they are eco-friendly?
IG: There is growing pressure to find ways to reduce water consumption per household and per person. We all understand the benefits of reducing water usage and how it effects the environment and household bills. As showers are one of the biggest contributors of wastewater, we wanted our customers to be aware of how much water they were consuming from their shower. As a result, we have incorporated a water usage dashboard into our app that shows how much water has been consumed for each user as well as the entire house over a specific period. This could be over the last week, month or six months. The app will clearly show who is using the most water and costs associated to them.
We also have a water saving mode on our handset that reduces flow by around 20 per cent. Our optimised spray pattern still provides an enhanced showering experience whilst using less water.
Our Quartz Classic and Unity controllers have a boost function. The boost option allows users to have added flow if required or users can choose to have it turned off to a lower flow rate and save water.
Our Touch and Optic controllers have three flow settings, Eco Medium and Max. Our Eco setting reduces flow by 40% compared to the Max flow setting.
All of our packaging used for our smart products is made from fully recyclable material. Around 70% of the packaging components we use is made from recycled material. 100% of the waste produced during the production of our packaging is collected and recycled back into paper.
HD: For hotels looking to renovate their properties in the wake of Covid-19, why is the Smart Quartz Collection a good option?
IG: We are continuously improving the installation features of all our products but there is a particularly good replacement and refurbishment story with smart showers around less pipework and push fit cable connection. For example, the major benefit of upgrading from a traditional shower is moving the SmartValve, the brains of the system, completely out of the showering area – and potentially away from the guest bathroom altogether which is so easy for any future adjustment and maintenance.
Also, freeing up more space in the showering area itself opens up much more design and décor flexibility. Perhaps even more compelling in the post-Covid economy is the ability of hotel management to monitor water usage and costs, if necessary, adjusting the water flow through hotel bathrooms. Assurances around hygiene and safety have surely never been a higher priority in terms of the hotel guest proposition and contactless smart shower technology clearly meets that brief.
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Main image credit: Aqualisa